By Gisèle Plantec
QUEBEC CITY, JUNE 17, 2008 (Zenit.org).- It is the hour of the Eucharist, but three things are needed for Catholics to go deeper in the Eucharistic mystery, said the founder of a fraternity dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament.
Father Nicolas Buttet is the founder of the Eucharistein Fraternity, inspired by St. Francis of Assisi in its devotion to evangelical simplicity and total reliance on God. The community’s life is centered on Christ in the Eucharist, celebrated in the sacrifice of the Mass and worshipped in the Blessed Sacrament.
The priest spoke today at the International Eucharistic Congress, under way in Quebec through Sunday.
He also spoke with ZENIT about what the congress means for Canada, and what is needed for Catholics to grow in their love for Christ present in the Eucharist.
Q: The Church in Canada expects much from this Eucharistic Congress. Do you believe it can renew the Church? Specifically, what can change?
Father Buttet: When I arrived at the Montreal airport, a young employee assigned to baggage control asked me about my clothes — I wear a brown tunic and a cross — saying in his nice Canadian accent: “What is that?” I answered him: “It’s a religious habit; I am a religious and a priest.” He replied: “Ah, but do people like that still exist?” A good discussion ensued, curious as he was about something of which he seemed to be totally ignorant.
Six months ago, I was in Montreal for a three-day session with business executives. The topic was discernment and there were two speakers: a philosopher and “the monk.” Having arrived at the session, a man came up to me and said enthusiastically: “You are a monk?” I answered: “Yes, of a sort.” “A Buddhist monk?” he replied with a curiosity which was not feigned. I answered him: “No, Catholic!” “Catholic, like the Pope?” he retorted with a rather disquieted and suspicious air. “Yes!” I replied enthusiastically. And I heard before me an “Oh no!” gushing forth from the innermost depths of disappointment. The session unfolded very well afterward and we were able to discuss frankly this first rather cold contact.
These two examples evidence onerous consequences, of what it is appropriate to call here the “peaceful revolution” of the 60s, a slow tsunami, but a tsunami nevertheless that was ecclesial, religious and cultural.
The World Youth Day of Toronto already shook this torpor that weighs on Canadian society, and particularly on this French-speaking part, which this year celebrates the 400th anniversary of Quebec, called initially “Mary’s city.”
It was the first visible ecclesial event since the Church was relegated outside the public domain. The Eucharistic Congress is a determinant stage on the path to proposing the faith. It is so because of the visibility of the event, the extent of the organization, and the audacity of certain initiatives of Cardinal [Marc] Ouellet and his team.
I am thinking especially of the spiritual effect, of the mobilization of so many people of good will, of so many parishes, of those perpetual adorations set up in different places, of the prayer engaged in for several months already for this Congress. God hears a Church that prays. God multiplies his works in hearts that are open to his grace.
Q: Can you give us a taste of what you will say at the Congress?
Father Buttet: Cardinal Ouellet asked me to bring, above all, a personal testimony on the Eucharist. Therefore, I will speak of my encounter with Jesus-Host, but also of the overwhelming way that my experiences in the world led me to bring Jesus to so many persons.
I remember a Mass in China, celebrated at the back of a stable, behind the cows so that the police would not come to look for us.
But I have also asked several young people that we receive in our community, young people from the street, from the drug milieu, or those who have experienced depression, to write in a few words their relationship with Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament and what the Mass and adoration offer them. I will share this.
My conclusion will be very clear: It’s the hour of the Eucharist! It’s the “kairos,” because its the hour of Christ and in the Eucharist we have Jesus and the whole mystery of salvation.
John Paul II said that there was no risk of exaggeration in the worship rendered to this mystery because it is Jesus himself that this worship addresses. I think we can engage in a “profound revolution,” that of hearts and of society.
Benedict XVI took as a sign and a mission the fact that he ascended the Chair of Peter at the height of the Eucharistic Year. It was for him the occasion to engage in the development of Eucharistic worship, the center of his Petrine ministry. And we know how he went about it. It was he who asked the bishops to introduce in their dioceses at least a place of perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. He showed them by example, instituting five [such places] in Rome.
The Eucharist is a school of liberty and a school of charity. But, above all, it is the source of the supernatural life of the baptized, without which one remains human, indeed “too human,” Nietzsche would have said.
Q: Catholics, including practicing Catholics, are at times not keen on entering the mystery of the Eucharist. They go to communion without conviction, out of habit. And yet the Eucharist is vital in a Catholic’s faith. How can one help believers to understand the profound significance of the Eucharist?
Father Buttet: Quebec’s Blessed Dina Belanger, beatified in 1993 by John Paul II, wrote one day in her diary: “If souls but understood what treasure they possess in the divine Eucharist, it would be necessary to protect the tabernacles by impregnable ramparts because, in the delirium of a holy and devouring hunger, they would themselves go to be nourished by the Bread of Angels. The churches would be brimming with adorers consumed by love for the divine prisoner, both during the day and the night.”
But one is not there! It’s true that the mystery is so great, the distance so enormous between that which our senses perceive — some bread — and that which our faith believes — Jesus — that it isn’t easy to enter into the mystery.
I think there are three things to develop: a Eucharistic catechesis which includes words and examples. “Let us enter the school of saints, great interpreters of authentic Eucharistic piety,” John Paul II said at the end of his encyclical on the Eucharist.
Second, light must focus on the consecration at Mass and the tabernacle in churches. I am always astounded by the little devotion there is during the Eucharistic celebration at the moment of consecration. It is a moment that is hurried over. One can believe with words, but with the gestures one poses in these moments one is not fooled.
One day I was with friends. The parents had a three-year-old girl. They had her baptized and then, by tradition and out of duty, went to Mass with her every Sunday. The girl’s aunt is a committed Catholic. It was time to go to Mass and the mother asked her little girl: “With whom would you like to go to Mass, with mommy or auntie?” And the girl answered without hesitation: “with auntie!”
“Why?” her mother asked. “Because she believes!” replied the little girl with even less hesitation.
I think there are gestures, attitudes which are a catechesis in themselves.
I was in China. Zachary, an old catechist, who risked his life to proclaim Jesus and who had reached 100 years of age had kept, in a hidden place in his home, a tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament. Happily, he had me discover his treasure behind a hidden door. Hardly had we entered the area when Zachary fell to his knees, prostrated himself with his forehead on the ground and began some prayers. I understood that it was Jesus who was there! There was no hesitation possible.
The third thing is Eucharistic adoration and Eucharistic devotion outside of Mass. This mystery is so great that the liturgy alone will never allow us to go sufficiently deeply. Only a prolonged exposition to the mystery of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament enables us to enter progressively into the Eucharistic wonder.
I am thinking of the testimony of 21-year-old Maxime: “For me, the Eucharist is the center of my life. Jesus-Eucharist has pulled me out of the hell of drugs. Thanks to the Eucharist, my life has been transformed and I am now happy to live to serve Christ. The Eucharist is my strength to love, to follow and serve Christ through joys and sorrows. God loves us infinitely and he will never abandon us.”